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Posts tagged " jewish wisdom "

Get a Good Mood from Food Dude

April 26th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment

Food is fuel, isn’t it? A meal for a human is the equivalent of adding wood to our fireplace. After all, our body temperature must be maintained at about 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Just as a home furnace converts firewood, coal, oil, or natural gas into heat, so do our bodies convert food into heat. Naturally we feel cold when we are famished.

But if food is just fuel, why do we crave steak and fries today; eggplant parmesan tomorrow, and spinach quiche the next day? Why don’t we want celery and peanut butter every day? After all, we don’t fuel our fireplaces with wood today and coal tomorrow.   Clearly something else is going on. Food is far more than merely fuel. (more…)

First Fruits (and sometimes Nuts)

December 10th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

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Here is today’s Thought Tool quiz:

Early in 1845, Henry David Thoreau, along with about twenty of his friends, began a two and a half year-long party in a cabin on the shore of Walden Pond, near Concord Massachusetts.  True or False?

In 1971 Ted Kaczynski, his wife, six children, a nanny, a tutor, and three puppies moved to an isolated mountain cabin in Montana from where he later sent bombs through the mail injuring dozens of people and killing three. True or False?

Brilliant twentieth century photographer Ansel Adams, who specialized in capturing the glory of America’s national parks and other natural wonders, left a legacy of thousands of pictures depicting happy crowds enjoying their natural outdoor heritage. True or False?

With thirty members of his Rotary Club, Chris McCandless hiked into the Alaskan wilderness in 1992. After being awed by nature’s grandeur, he returned home to Virginia.  True of False?

Ready for the answers?  All four statements are false. (I am sure you hardly needed me to tell you that.)  Thoreau was alone at Walden Pond.  The Unabomber lived in lonely isolation for nearly thirty years.  It is difficult to find any Ansel Adams photographs containing even one human image.  In his book, “Into the Wild,” Jon Krakauer relates how McCandless hiked alone and died alone, tragically and unnecessarily.

While it is true that many families and crowds of friends enjoy the outdoors in companionship, we each tend to experience nature in our own individual way.  To some it’s the sunrise or sunset. To others it’s lambs gamboling behind their mothers in the spring.  But whichever way you experience nature, it can resemble a museum which evokes awe more than camaraderie.  I might visit an art gallery with a group of friends, but the experience is essentially lonely.

It is not a coincidence that far more money is made, and far greater wealth created, in the crowded confines of cities than in the open spaces of nature.  Almost by definition, the great outdoors is uncrowded while making money requires considerable contact between humans.  I make money when other people who know me, like me, and trust me invite me to serve them with my good or services.  That is certainly more likely to happen when my focus is people and connection than when I revel in the splendid isolation of the wild.

This helps us understand a perplexing puzzle found in Deuteronomy 26.

We’re told that when Israel enters its land everyone should bring his annual first fruits to Jerusalem. There, he should place his basket before the priest in the Temple. He then recites a proclamation.

Wouldn’t you suppose that in appreciation of nature’s bounty the grateful farmer might recite verses praising nature and its miraculous processes? For instance, you might have expected those who brought their first fruits to articulate verses like these from Psalms.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving sing praise upon the harp to our God who covers the heaven with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass grow on the mountains.
(Psalms 147:7-8)

Yet those bringing their first fruits to Jerusalem must utter a different passage:

An Aramean tried to destroy my father, who then went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous; But the Egyptians dealt harshly with us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us terrible slavery.  And when we cried to the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labor, and our oppression and brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great awesomeness, and with signs, and with wonders.  And he has brought us to this place, and has given us this land, a land that flows with milk and honey.  And now, I have brought the first fruits of the land.  
(Deuteronomy 26:5-9)

Why a condensed history lesson rather than a song of nature’s bounty?  History bonds us to those who came before us and to those who will follow us.  Moreover, emphasizing shared history bonds us to others as we gather to celebrate anniversaries, holidays and memorial observances.  If we are celebrating the sustenance we enjoy, then it is far more appropriate to celebrate our connection to people, both living and long gone, than to sing of nature.

Yes, nature provides valuable solace and rejuvenation. However, as a model for existence, God wishes for us to live among others. Keeping our histories alive is a sure way to retain the nourishment of connection. Not surprisingly, God blesses those who follow His wishes in this respect with the enormous blessing of sustenance and abundance.

Next week, Jews will gather to celebrate Chanuka. It is a blueprint for the present as well as a history of the past, with important life lessons for all of God’s children. We collected some valuable insights in our audio CD, Festival of Lights: Transform Your 24/7 Existence into a 25/8 Life. You can get it alone or enjoy substantial holiday savings and hours of life-enhancing learning when you order it as part of our Biblical Blueprint Set. And yes, listening with others amplifies the benefits.

BiblicalBlueprintSetFOL cover (3)

  Available by mail or
 instant download

Do You Hear Me?

September 10th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

It makes sense to live life cautiously.  Rational thought precludes taking risks.  Reason suggests that we carefully weigh all options and avoid stepping onto any path whose outcome cannot be clearly seen.  This safe approach reduces the likelihood of wasting one’s time and money, or harming one’s health.  It certainly has merit.

However, if the Wright Brothers, Alexander Fleming, and Guglielmo Marconi had followed this approach, we might travel only on slow boats, trains and cars.  We might succumb to bacterial infections, and communicate only by means of slow signals sent down copper wires.  Those pioneers acted riskily, expending time, money, and health.

Of course there are times for careful analysis before acting.  But as societies slowly decline and lose their vitality the equally important corollary often gets forgotten—there are also times for instant action.  One of the conspicuous characteristics of a degenerating, decaying people is much talking, endless conferences and symposiums, exhausting analyses, conferring, debating, reviewing and evaluating.  But not much action.

For this reason, we usually see more acts of heroism earlier in nations’ histories than later.  Once affluence has led to decadence, heroism becomes rare.  After all, few acts of heroism make sense when subjected to sustained scrutiny.

The Hebrew calendar provides a special day, an annual booster shot reminding us to keep our action instincts ready, lubricated, and powered-up.  This special day is called Yom Kippur, often translated as Day of Atonement.

It is the day on which Moses descended from Mt. Sinai after spending forty days writing the second set of Tablets.  (Exodus 34:28-29).  Ancient Jewish wisdom emphasizes that the transformative moment for the Jewish people was their unconditional acceptance of the Tablets of the Law.  They didn’t ask what is written in it.  They didn’t hold symposiums to assess its value to an emerging nation.  They didn’t debate, deliberate or discuss it.

What they did do was instantly react with unconditional acceptance.

Long before they could possibly have read the approximately 80,000 words in the Torah they said:

All that God has spoken we will do and obey.
(Exodus 24:7)

Most translations of the original Hebrew verse use pretty much the same words I just used.  There is only one problem:  it’s not what the Hebrew says.

What the verse literally says is, “…we will do and hear.”

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that the word ‘hear’ often means ‘understand.’   When a father yells at his child, “Clean up your room; do you hear me?” he is obviously not asking his youngster if he is talking loudly enough.  He is really asking, “Do you understand me?”

Furthermore, there is no word in Hebrew for obey.  In a book containing over six hundred of God’s rules and regulations wouldn’t you have expected to find the word ‘obey’ occurring quite frequently?

Regular Thought Tool readers know the significance of words not existing in the Lord’s language.  For now, suffice it to explain that the word obey doesn’t exist in Hebrew because it implies mindless following of orders and God doesn’t want mindless ‘obedience’ from us.

Instead, He wants us to struggle to integrate doing and understanding so we reach the height of always being able to think while we act and act while we think. He wants us to integrate the two. Action should lead to understanding and understanding leads to action. Neither should exclude the other. Students of Scripture don’t need to choose between, “He who hesitates is lost,” and, “Look before you leap.” They only contradict one another if they remain separate.  The fascinating response of the Israelites is that they will both act and understand, though in this case, action takes the lead. Yom Kippur, linked to the giving of the Torah, reminds us of Israel’s transformational response.

Among the self-analysis featured on Yom Kippur we examine how we use the gifts of time and speech. Among other topics, in our five audio CD Biblical Blueprint Set, we explore how understanding and improving in these areas not only pleases God but also benefits our lives. Get Day for Atonement by itself or acquire it as part of the whole set.

Day for Atonement front coverBiblicalBlueprintSet_____________________________________

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Hollywood Racists-Whatever That Means

Well-known TV actor and former president of the Screen Actors Guild, Ed Asner, gave us a peek into why the terms racism and racist should be deleted from our vocabulary. Mr. Asner was honest enough to acknowledge that Hollywood’s silence regarding the president’s proposed military action against Syria, raised questions.

Where were all the voices who stridently opposed military action when George Bush was president? While Asner raised a number of reasons, one in particular… READ MORE

Bible Codes – Real or Rubbish?

April 23rd, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Hidden codes embedded in Scripture!  Bible codes predict terrorist attacks!  Sensationalistic headlines like these have been seen for years.  Melodramatic books with extravagant claims appeared in the mid-1990s often written by authors with little Hebrew knowledge.

So frequently am I asked about this that I’m devoting this Thought Tool to the topic.  While in yeshiva, my teachers often showed me cryptic references to codes in the Five Books of Moses.  These are alluded to in the pre-WWII works of Rabbi Chaim Michel Dov Weissmandl, the volumes of Rabbeinu Bachya (c. 1300) and many others.

How do they work?  Look at the color study guide found in each of our four Genesis Journeys sets.  (We have posted it here as well.)You see the 27 letters of the Hebrew alphabet laid out in 3 rows of 9 letters each.  Each letter possesses a specific numeric value, so the rows can be viewed as 1-9, 10-90, and 100-900.  Furthermore, columns have meaning as well.  For example, 500 is an elevated, more intense form of 50, which, in turn, intensifies 5, which always suggests the FIVE books of Moses.

The first line of William Shakespeare’s play, King Henry VI, reads, “Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night.”  Imagine discovering that the 50th letter counting from the first ‘S’ in ‘heavens’ yields an ‘H’. Counting a further 50 letters we come across an ‘A’. Continuing, we discover that Shakespeare encoded his name into the opening of all his plays in this fashion.  He didn’t.  But if he did, it would eliminate all controversy about who really wrote those plays.

Well, counting by 50 from the first instance of the first letter of the Hebrew word for Torah in the first two and last two of the Five Books of Moses yields the entire word TORAH. (The middle book, Leviticus, reveals a different word, for reasons we don’t have space to explore here.)

There are hundreds of similar examples throughout the Torah, which defy mathematical odds. An amazing sequence is found in Genesis 38. This chapter introduces the strange circumstances leading to the birth of Peretz, the 9th level grandfather of King David.  In Genesis 38:11-28, using the counts of 50, we find embedded the names, Ruth, Boaz, Oved, Yishai (Jesse), and David in that chronological order. These, of course, are King David’s father, grandfather, and great-grandparents. Statistical calculations show that the odds of this happening by chance are well over a million to one.

Why did God put the codes in the Torah?  Perhaps, so that in future years, when people would become scientifically advanced and secularized and come to doubt that the Torah is God’s message to mankind, they would encounter the codes, known to Torah-knowledgeable Jews but otherwise discoverable only with computers. They will be thrown into consternation and doubt. They will ask, “Is it possible that the Torah really is the word of God?”

In the early 80s I was in regular touch with some of the first Israeli computer scientists exploring the codes, like distinguished mathematicians Eliyahu Rips and Doron Witztum.  They were searching for the patterns hinted at in early Hebrew writings and requested my help in securing computing equipment. Back then, computers were big and expensive but my California congregation willingly participated in purchasing several computers that we dispatched to our researcher friends in Israel.  In return, we asked to be kept informed of all progress, gaining early data on code research.

Are the codes authentic?  Those passed down since Sinai certainly are. However, since the codes became a media event, some people have attempted to sensationalize them. For this reason, there is both valid and not valid information about codes to be found.

Codes are only one of the astonishing surprises embedded in the Hebrew Torah. With current events unfolding as they are, understanding prophecies and material about Islam is vital to productively living our lives. I encourage you to explore Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam.

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Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

Is it right for married couples to study the bible separately as in a women’s only bible study?

Thank You,

Kathy

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Right Wing (Fill in the Blank)

Actually, I’ll fill it in for you. The answer is, “extremist.” If you say the words, “great, green, greasy” to my children, they will shout out, “Limpopo River”, based on Rudyard Kipling stories that my husband told them while they were growing up. If you then said that you were thinking of an avocado burger or an emerald suntan lotion, that information wouldn’t dislodge the association with “Limpopo River” from their minds. For my children, the words “great, green and greasy” lead to one and only one conclusion.

Sadly, language has been manipulated to form an equation between the benign word ‘right’…READ MORE

Color My World

February 12th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

It is true that there is no specific ancient Jewish wisdom on how The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind effectively ended the era of black-and-white movies when they were released in 1939.  But the Torah does teach the permanent principles of color. It even teaches why different colors impact us in different ways and why red is on the top curve of the rainbow and blue on the bottom.

Furthermore, in the Lord’s language, Hebrew, the words for the main colors matches their intrinsic characteristics.  What do I mean by this?  Imagine I was teaching someone English. Pointing to a yellow crayon, I carefully enunciate YEL-LOW.  Then, holding up the red crayon, I say the word RED.  My foreign student would nod happily because he now knew the English words for two colors.

Now imagine that I perversely reversed the words, cruelly instructing my student that the English word for the color yellow is actually RED and the way we describe red in English is with this word—YELLOW.  No matter how smart and worldly my student might be, there is nothing that would alert him to my mischief.

However, Hebrew is quite different.  A scientist who knew that each Hebrew letter represents a numerical value wouldn’t be bamboozled by my playful prank.  The moment I reversed the Hebrew words for RED and YELLOW, he would say, ‘Just a moment, those words you’ve just told me don’t make sense. They ought to be reversed.’  Here is how he would have known.

Let’s examine four Biblical colors:

RED is found in Genesis 25:30. In Hebrew, ADoM, it has a numerical equivalent calculated by adding the value of each of its three letters:  alef (1) + dalet (4) + mem (40) = 45.

What our scientist knew and which I shall now tell you is that light rays are really electromagnetic vibrations.  Different colors vibrate at different frequencies.  A good estimate for the vibration of red light is about 470 trillion times a second.  So let’s remember that the key numbers for RED are a numerical equivalent of 45, and a frequency of 470 (approximately).

Moving on to YELLOW, or TZaHoV, that we encounter in the Bible in Leviticus 13:30.  Its numerical equivalent is tzadi (90) + hay (5) + vet (2) = 97.  Its frequency (in trillions of times a second) is about 510.

Green, YeRaKON, is used as a color in Jeremiah 30:8 “…and all faces have turned green.”  Even today we talk of someone looking a bit green meaning sickly or uneasy.  (Genesis 1:30 uses the word YeReK to mean ‘greens’ or herbs.)

YeRaKON has a numerical value of yud (10) + resh (200) + kuf (100) + vav (6) + nun (50) equaling 366.  It has a vibrating frequency of about 565.

Finally, blue, TeCHeLeT, seen in Exodus 25:4 has a numerical value of tav(400) + chaf (20) + lamed (30) + tav (400) for a total of 850. Electromagnetic frequency tables inform us that blue’s rate of vibration is about 650 trillion times each second.

To summarize:                                   

When charted on a graph, it looks something like this.  Other Biblical colors can be added in.  Astoundingly, we get a straight line with about 95% accuracy.

Trying this with the English names for the colors yields a meaningless muddle.  In Hebrew the result is nothing short of amazing.  As Israeli scholar Chayim Shorr suggests, we see a strong link between the Hebrew names of colors and their real word physical characteristics.

The Lord’s language and ancient Jewish wisdom do indeed provide accurate guidance to how the world REALLY works. My mission is to make this information available to all. Many people have told me how the four programs comprising our Genesis Journeys Set helped them move closer to God and His vision for their lives. Like so many companies and ministries around the country, our costs are climbing alarmingly. We will reluctantly have little option but to increase prices soon. We’ve slashed the price on Genesis Journeys Set this week. Please seize this opportunity to get this and other resources you need.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Here’s to the Future, Baby!

When outsiders peek into the world of Torah observance, they often see a long list of “do’s” and “don’ts.” To those who try to immerse themselves in the system, details that can seem persnickety instead reveal how to live successfully. The rules we try our best to follow align our actions with God’s deep understanding of human nature.

An opportunity that the Torah urges us to grab…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

I would like some clarification of the last paragraph in your answer to Carla F. when she asked what to do about her 17-year-old son who is hostile to religion. Unlike her situation… my (almost) 17 year-old is not hostile but he absolutely hates going to church. He would do anything to keep from going but is not rebellious or anything. I think he is just bored and would rather stay home and watch TV or play video games. He doesn’t seem to have problems with God in general, just church.

My initial idea was to make him go until he turned 18 but I wonder now if that is the right thing to do. I know parents need to make children do certain things that the child doesn’t want to do but at what age does this end? I’m starting to wonder what difference one more year would make other than making him run as far away from church as he can when he finally does get to make his own decision.

Should we force the issue? Thanks,

Marcus W.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

The Enterprise of Transformation

February 5th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

I visited many cities in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel last year, and I traveled through many airports while delivering over fifty speeches.  (I counted them here: https://www.rabbidaniellapin.com/speaking_engagements.php)

During my travels, I frequently rent a car.  Sometimes from Hertz, other times from the smaller companies, Avis and National.  Since I rarely see Enterprise at an airport, I was surprised to discover that it is more than twice the size of Hertz, with more than twice the number of cars and rental locations as well as twice the revenue.

What I discovered about Enterprise not only granted me insight into the car rental business but it also reminded me that whatever your background, if you tap into God’s wisdom, as Jack Taylor did, you too will prosper.

If you don’t see Enterprise at the airport, how did it grow into such a large and profitable company?

Hertz situated their offices in airports and hotels while Enterprise locations are in town. Enterprise owns the off-airport car rental market.  While your own car is being repaired, you probably drive an Enterprise car.  If you ever need an extra car, call Enterprise; they’ll bring it to you.

After serving in World War II, Jack Taylor was working as a car salesman when he conceived of a different kind of car rental company.  Locals wanting to rent a car had to get a ride to the nearest airport to do so.  Jack started renting cars out of the dealership he worked at and served people by taking their cars to them.  Despite Hertz’s forty-year lead in car rental, Jack spotted a need and filled it. He gradually built his idea into Enterprise.  “Take care of your customers and employees first, and profits will follow,” is a timeless Torah truth and making it his slogan transformed Jack’s life.

The Jewish calendar is largely based on the lunar cycle. Ancient Jewish wisdom reveals that Abraham assigned a sign to each month. The holiday of Chanukah falls in the Hebrew month of Kislev while the holiday of Purim comes in the month of Adar. We are between these two holidays right now. The start of this period, Kislev, is identified with the sign of the Rainbow.  (The Greeks later mistakenly called it the archer’s bow – Sagittarius.)  The rainbow is caused by sunlight and water, two requirements for both plants and people to thrive.

Abraham assigned to the month of Adar, the month of Purim, the sign of Fish.  Fish serve as a sign of blessing in ancient Jewish wisdom. Unlike birds that raid our orchards and animals that can be pests or threats, fish do nothing to harm us; furthermore, they are readily available to us as food.  In addition, they usually swim in large schools, representing connection. The Hebrew name for Adar’s sign is even in the plural to highlight this point.

Both Chanukah and Purim celebrate the triumph of light over darkness, hope over despair and happiness over distress.  During these months of short days and long nights, they remind each of us that darker days today can be instantly transformed into bright tomorrows.

This period also reminds us that the pathway to transformation starts with growth. At its start, on Chanukah, we light one additional light on each of its eight days. (See Thought Tools Volume 2, ‘Hey Buddy, Got a Light?’)The period culminates in the sign of the fish reminding us that connecting with many people and serving them leads to hope and happiness.

I find delivering speeches exhilarating because it connects me with many people and allows me to serve them. In addition to serving, I appreciate learning from others as well. One business mentor whose wisdom I value is Noah Alper. His transformation from anti-religious to believing Jew paralleled his transformation from poverty to phenomenal business success. His enjoyable book, Business Mensch, tells his story and the lessons he learned the hard way as it provides concrete, practical guidance for anyone wanting to flourish financially. I encourage you to get a copy and we are making it available at a substantial discount this week. (Pair it with my own Thou Shall Prosper for a winning duo!)

Business Mensch: Timeless Wisdom for Today’s Entrepreneur
by Noah Alper

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Homeless Hopelessness (Part 2)

In (Part 1) last week I introduced you to Richard LeMieux, who wrote a book telling of his descent into homelessness and the intriguing cast of characters he met in Bremerton, Washington.

This week I continue with some observations I had after reading his book…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

I recently attended your talk in the United Kingdom and your talk further inspired me to realize financial success. I have looked for gaps in the service market- to no avail. I am a married woman of medium intelligence and tenacity but feel hemmed in and unsure as to what I can achieve at my age (53yrs).  Can you advise what to do?

Glenis S.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

In (Part 1) last week I introduced you to Richard LeMieux, who wrote a book telling of his descent into homelessness and the intriguing cast of characters he met in Bremerton, Washington.

This week I continue with some observations I had after reading his book.

The Grandeur of the Grind

January 8th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

You do it.  I do it.  We all do it. We find ways to avoid doing those tasks in our lives that will really make a difference.  They might be unpleasant, hard, boring, perhaps even frightening.  Often, they are the very ones we have to identify and tackle.

There are the parents whose toddler is getting out of control.  The time is overdue to introduce him to the wonderful world of discipline.  They’ve let things go for a bit too long and now every attempt to introduce boundaries and insist on appropriate behavior is met with tantrums.  The parents focus on good nutrition and creative play times—anything in fact, in order to avoid doing the one great task that will make the most difference in their lives and that of their child.

There’s the aspiring sales professional who does almost everything except the one task that will make most difference in his life—completing his quota of calls every single day.

There’s the student who dreams of playing at Carnegie Hall. She needs to sit down, play the same piece repeatedly, and start the cycle again with a more difficult piece.

The Lord’s language has a word for an activity which might be staggeringly difficult to confront but which also might be the single most important assignment for any given moment of our lives.

That word is AVoDaH and one revealing example of its usage is this:

And they (the Egyptians) embittered their (the Israelites) lives with hard work, with mortar and bricks, and with all work in the field; all their work at which they worked them was with harshness.
(Exodus 1:14)

Every instance of the word ‘work’ in that verse, employs the Hebrew word Avodah. It suggests subjugation and servitude and certainly doesn’t sound like a positive word. It actually sounds like something you desperately want to avoid.

Don’t be too quick to jump to that conclusion. Let’s learn another Hebrew word for work – MeLaCHaH. Understanding it will make all the difference.

We find both words for work combined in the Fourth Commandment, instructing us to remember the Sabbath day.

Six days shall you work(AVoDaH) and do all your work (MeLaCHaH)…
Exodus 20:9

Why do we need both words? God is giving us a tremendously significant message. MeLaCHaH is the creative work that transforms our world and uplifts our lives, while Avodah is work that lacks that exciting element. Yet we do not get to do MeLaCHaH if we don’t first do our Avodah.

Life in Egypt was tough precisely because slaves have only Avodah with no possibility of MeLaCHaH. But don’t dream that you can enjoy MeLaCHaH without Avodah. Integrating the two types of work makes everything possible.

There is little as exciting as seeing one’s toddler blossom into a responsible youth and thriving adult with whom you share a close relationship. Achieving that requires many hours of consistent and sometimes unpleasant parenting (along with much prayer and blessing).

Making the big sale is thrilling. Hours of application, hard work, disappointment and dedication precede the excitement. Playing to a full house is thrilling, but years of perseverance lead to that moment.

Fortunately, we don’t need to wait years for the fulfillment of MeLaCHaH. Each of our days—and as the Fourth Commandment reveals, our weeks—holds both types of work. However, we do best knowing that the way the world really works, we should tackle the mundane and difficult with zest, for without it we will never achieve MeLaCHaH. We should rejoice in Avodah rather than resenting it.

One way to turn the ‘daily grind’ into the ‘daily greatness’ is to get a true appreciation of the nobility, dignity and opportunity of work, along with tips for achievement. One of the very best roadmaps for this purpose is our audio CD Boost Your Income: The Three Spiritual Steps to Success. (Check out this week’s special sale price.) As my friend, the late Zig Ziglar explained, you need to hear wisdom repeatedly just as you need to bathe repeatedly.  Listen to this life-changing program again and again and share it with someone you wish to bless. Turn the struggle to make a living into a thrilling, satisfying and successful quest.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Suds and Citizenship

This may not be culture threatening, but I couldn’t find my notebook this morning. Despite increasing reliance on my computer, I am still partial to the college-ruled notebooks that are available for about ten cents apiece during August back-to-school sales. Having started a new one yesterday it was particularly irksome that it wasn’t in its appropriate place.

After running through possible scenarios…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

Is there a difference between mercy killing and suicide? Will God forgive that person?

Jerry T.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

The Snake that Roared

December 25th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Ever found yourself frustrated by endless conversation while you knew that time for critical action was passing?  You need the roadmap to transformation.

Genesis chapter 46 enumerates Jacob’s children and grandchildren by name, arriving at a total of seventy souls who came to Egypt.  All is as expected until we arrive at Jacob’s fifth son, Dan.

Dan’s sons: Chushim.
(Genesis 46:23)

That’s right, Dan’s “sons” suggests a plural, yet there is only one—Chushim.  Strangely, his name ends in the manner that masculine plural nouns end in Hebrew—IM.  So yeladIM means boys; sefarIM means books, and susIM means horses.  Though Dan only has one son, ChushIM, there is a hint in the ending of his name that he is actually plural—two people.

We see one additional hint at a duality in the tribe of Dan:

When blessing his sons, Jacob compares Dan to a snake:

Dan will be a serpent on the highway, a viper by the path…
(Genesis 49:17)

By the end of Deuteronomy, Moses compares Dan to a lion:

…Dan is a lion cub…
(Deuteronomy 33:22)

From snake to lion is quite a leap.  It certainly seems that Dan has undergone major transformation in the few centuries separating the two verses.  In fact he is assigned a prestigious and protective post north of the Tabernacle during the desert journey. (Numbers 2:25)

What started this transformation? Ancient Jewish wisdom describes a rather strange story. When Jacob’s sons arrived at the cave to bury their father (Genesis 50:13), their Uncle Esau confronted them saying, “That burial plot belongs to me.”  The stunned sons reminded Esau that he sold his inheritance to Jacob, but he refused to give ground. They then dispatched Naftali to Egypt to fetch the contract to prove that the plot indeed belonged to Jacob. Meanwhile they waited.

Chushim, the son of Dan was deaf and did not hear the entire discussion.   When he asked, “What’s the delay?” his uncles explained how Esau was holding up the burial. This outraged Chushim. “Must my grandfather lie in disgrace until Naftali returns?” he yelled.  He immediately killed Esau.

What caused Chushim to have such an instantaneous and strong reaction?

Lengthy conversation and negotiation can have a numbing effect.  It can gradually erode the certainty of one’s position.  One begins to “understand” the other side.  Think of how many today have begun to “understand” those who would destroy Israel.

By contrast, the deaf Chushim who heard none of the interaction with Esau knew only that, “Grandpa lies in disgrace.”  He recognized Esau’s intent for what it truly was—a desire to remove Jacob and his descendants from continuing the heritage of Abraham and Isaac.  The delay was for the sole purpose of demeaning Grandfather Jacob rather than a valid confusion over a contract.

We are certainly not meant to model our behavior exactly on that of Chushim. However, those of us with ambition to improve our lives can learn from him. Sometimes we need to transform ourselves radically from snakes to lions as it were.  Such transformation is best brought about through action rather than talking, arguing, organizing or coordinating.  Often we can get ourselves out of the rut by a convulsive leap rather than by endlessly discussing detailed drawings and descriptions of the obstacles in our path.  Chushim really was two people—Chushim the First before transformation and Chushim the Second thereafter.

We are intended to use everything in Scripture to help improve every aspect of our lives.  We are to improve our relationships with people, with God, and with our property.  We are to improve our health, our moods, and our usage of time.  One of the most effective resources that we make available is our two-volume Thought Tool Set.  On sale for only $15 for both books right now, the set contains over one hundred inspiring and motivating tips, tools, and techniques for life improvement and personal transformation, and can help you and those you love.  Reading, contemplating and talking about these essays will help you know when the time to talk is past and action is needed. Act now by clicking here for more information.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Merry Christmas – No Reciprocity Required

“Have a joyous Christmas.”

“Thank you and Happy Chanuka. Well, I guess that’s over now but I hope it was happy, I mean…”

I’ve had a few awkward conversations such as this one over the past few days. In my daily life I regularly interact with Christians. From the woman who leads the exercise class I attend to the checker at the local supermarket wearing a reindeer pin, many around me are celebrating a special, religious occasion.

They often know that I am not. For some reason that leaves them tongue-tied…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

Why does God sometimes address His words to Jacob and then to Israel even in the same verse of Scripture? I’m thinking about Isaiah 43:1.

Kathleen G.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

Fire Up the Blender

December 11th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Successful living often involves blending two incompatibles.  For instance, raising great children means parenting with the perfect mix of tough, firm discipline and gentle, yielding compassion.  In running a business, entrepreneurs must exquisitely blend ‘the customer is always right’ with ‘some customers are not worth having.’  In courting, smart men and women combine ‘you’re the only one for me’ with recognizing that until the wedding, other options do exist.

Living without this ability to combine opposites is seldom successful.  Such parents run the risk of creating either brats or brutes. Such a suitor can endlessly submit to an excessively demanding and unsuitable marriage partner.  Such a storekeeper ends up with a collection of customers who spend very little and complain a great deal or with no customers at all.

Chanukah, whose fourth day is today, emphasizes one of the most crucial of these blends—that between body and soul, between living in the physical world and also in the spiritual one.

In ancient Jewish wisdom Greek culture represents a materialistic view of reality and is viewed as the source for a physical world view in which only those things that can be seen and touched have value.

One might suppose that the opposing view is that only spirituality matters.  However that is not correct.  God gave Israel one of the great secrets of life – the importance of striking a balance between physical and spiritual and between body and soul.  The tension between the world views of Israel and Greece is the central theme of Chanukah.  How one feels about whether we live only in a materialistic world or whether we live in a world of both physical and spiritual will greatly influence the decisions we make in running our lives. For that reason, understanding the Greece/Israel tension is vital for successful living.

The Torah term for Greece is Yavan.  It appears many times throughout Scripture and always hints at a mistaken materialistic view of reality. It is first found early in the tenth chapter of Genesis.  The word looks like this: The word’s graphical appearance, three vertical columns of different lengths, suggests the famous columns that are the most enduring relic of ancient Greece.  What is more, if one slightly varies the pronunciation of the three letters that comprise the Hebrew word YaVaN, what emerges is ION, the origin of Ionia, the ancient name for Greece.

The word Zion captures the idealistic vision of God’s plan and purpose for us.

…for from Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.(Isaiah 2:3)

The word Zion looks like this:

It is created by placing the letter Tsadi in front of the Hebrew word for Greece, YaVaN.

All Hebrew letters have meanings and that of Tsadi is a saintly human being.  Putting all this together reveals that the idealistic vision of Zion depends upon blending the spiritual saintliness of the Tsadi with the worldliness of Yavan.

While it is true that in the afterlife we shall be involved only in the spiritual, in this world, God intends us to live successful lives blending together the physical and the spiritual.  We reflect this ideal on Chanukah by kindling our menorahs, creating a special light whose purpose is to shine as a beacon, blending physical and spiritual.  That is what scientists mean by the duality of light.  Light can best be understood as a mind-boggling blend of physical particles and spiritual information in waves.

When I light my menorah tonight in the company of my wife and children I will reflect in gratitude to God for His wisdom. We have an abundance of sales going on right now giving you the opportunity to bring more of God’s wisdom into your homes. Our best-selling books Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money and Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language remain on sale for a short while longer. As an added Chanukah bonus, our audio CD Festival of Lights: Transform Your 24/7 Existence into a 25/8 Life can be downloaded instantly at more than 50% savings (or get it by mail for only a bit more). Buy now and help yourself, those you gift and us—it’s a win/win.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: The Real Safety Net

What do high tax rates, entitlement programs and a dinner in honor of my nine-year-old grandson have to do with each other? It turns out, quite a lot.

My husband and I were privileged to attend a siyum at our daughter and son-in-law’s house. A siyum marks…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

In your recent Thought Tool, you site how in Genesis 29, two words are used, GeDoLah and KeTaNah, (older and younger) and discuss how important it is to be responsible for your actions. You conclude, “Accepting responsibility puts us on the path to greatness”.

Given the opposite behavior in our highest political leaders – I have some serious doubt that this piece of advice really applies to the truly powerful in America in this decadent age. Perhaps in the afterlife these powerful prevaricators will get their just rewards, but on earth – this tactic of blaming others seems quite effective. How do you explain the success of those who successfully hold on to high office in the land and apparently prosper by blaming others?

Alan L.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

Speech! Speech!

December 4th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Five years ago, in a dazzling speech at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, Steve Jobs introduced his iPhone with these words, “Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything…”

On June 4th, 1940, Winston Churchill gave a speech warning of a possible Nazi invasion.  This was its climax:

We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Just over 3,300 years ago, Moses concluded a 36-day long speech to Israel with these words:

I’m 120 years old today and can no longer go out and come in for the Lord has said to me, ‘You will not cross this Jordan.’ The Lord your God will cross before you; he will destroy these nations from before you and you shall inherit them. Joshua, he will cross over before you as the Lord has spoken.
(Deuteronomy 31:2-3)

Do you think it would have been as effective had Steve Jobs sent everyone an email about the new iPhone?  Within a week of its release, Apple sold about a million iPhones; by the end of 2007 about ten million, and to date about 85 million.  Without Steve Jobs’ iconic speeches, would those sales figures have been achieved?

In 1940, some of England’s leaders, men like Lord Halifax, considered the attempt to defeat Hitler to be hopeless.  Their call to cut a deal with Hitler was especially persuasive after France unexpectedly fell to the Germans and the British Expeditionary Force was ignominiously rescued from the beach of Dunkirk.  Over three hundred thousand soldiers were saved from annihilation by a heroic fleet of small boats, arriving back in England early June 4th.  It is hard to imagine England recovering its nerve and its determination to fight had Churchill urged England never to surrender in a newspaper column.  Instead he mesmerized the nation with his speech that afternoon.

Just before his impending death, Moses handed to Joshua the leadership of Israel on the eve of their most formidable challenge—defeating barbaric tribes and conquering the Promised Land.  The spies had earlier demoralized the Children of Israel with terrifying accounts of the land’s impregnability and what is more the people were anxious about a future without the man who had guided them for over forty years. Yet, after Moses’ speech the Torah concludes by informing us that the Children of Israel listened to Joshua as Moses had directed. (Deuteronomy 34:9)  Without this monumental speech by Moses, could the leadership transition and the subsequent inheritance of the Land have occurred?

The Torah is more about actions than beliefs.  For instance, it tells us to love the Lord our God rather than to believe in Him. (Deuteronomy 6:5).  It focuses on walking, sacrificing, and eating rather than on thinking, theorizing, and speculating.  Which action verb does the Torah mention more than any other?  Words for say, speak, or talk appear nearly five times more frequently than any other verbs.

Speeches can transform our destiny.  We hold enormous power in our speeches.  When your spouse agreed to marry you, it was probably after one of your best speeches.  When you got your favorite job or scored your biggest sale it was after another of your effective speeches.  When you influenced friends or persuaded someone towards your point of view, you were employing your power of speech.

Is your power of speech as effective as it could be? Presenting yourself successfully through speech is a theme that runs through almost all the resources we offer. In my book, Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money, I explain why speaking from notes harms communication and teach you how to speak without them. Moses, Churchill and Jobs certainly didn’t read their speeches. Find out more about this tip, as well as additional ones vital for improving your financial situation, while taking advantage of the book’s lowest sale price ever. Alone, or as part of our Income Abundance Set, it makes a thoughtful and long-lasting gift for those you love, as a road-map to a transformed financial future.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Zig Ziglar: A Truly Great Man

I found two text messages on my phone after my exercise class last Wednesday. The first, from our daughter in nursing school, told me that she had assisted in a birth for the very first time. Even the sterile method of communication couldn’t conceal her excitement.

The second was from my husband, telling me that our dear friend, Zig Ziglar, had passed away. Even the sterile method of communication couldn’t mask his grief…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

I’m a doctoral candidate in a Philosophy of Theology program writing a dissertation. I’m attempting to answer the question, “What is the biblical concept of community?” More than understanding its historical expression, I am seeking to show how its value is critical to humanity in contemporary culture. What insights are found Torah for defining and living in community? Thank you for your contribution into my life through Thought Tools.

Roderick L.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE